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By Elisa Morgan

Do you journal?

Sometimes I do. Stacked in a corner in my office are some ten or twelve volumes containing my life’s musings, records of God’s nudges in my heart and many, many questions. I keep them there because I want to go through them before I die (Ha!) and tear out any pages that might incriminate the darker sides of me. You know, the ones I don’t want anyone to see - including children, grandchildren and husband!

Then there are more recent notebooks that hold more filtered heart ponderings. These become blogs, devotionals and even entries to books. While incomplete in their current status, they serve to prod me to deeper learnings. They help me process. They give me insight. In these pages, I’m not concerned about being “seen.” I’m more focused on seeing.

In recent years, my husband and I decided to winter in the desert near my younger brother who is ill and awaiting an organ transplant. Because we are now empty-nesters and remote-workers, it made sense to us to leave Colorado in the snowy season to be more available to him in the California desert. I usually pack my current journal to continue my practice. But this year I forgot it.

What to do without my journal?

In similar moments, I’ve typed out my thoughts and filed them in my computer. I’ve jotted thoughts on sheets of paper to staple into blank journal pages. This time I did neither. I just stopped journaling. I read my Bible. I worked through a devotional book. I prayed. I quieted. I listened to podcasts that prodded me to growth. But I didn’t journal.

Back home in Colorado, I pulled out my turquoise leather-bound notebook and turned to a blank page. The last entry was more than three months prior. I stared at the page and reflected on all that had happened in those months, undocumented but still held in my heart. It seemed “off” to just skip to the present. And yet I knew I couldn’t record all the happenings as they had happened.

So, I made a bulleted list of highlights from my unjournaled season in the desert. It included:

  • Arriving just after the death of a dear friend and needing to return home a few days later to participate in her memorial.

  • Extended family time with my all my siblings: half, whole and by marriage, noting the growth of our relationships as we drew near after the death of one from our circle of relationships.

  • A visit from our past small group where all four males have received humbling, yet still hopeful health diagnoses and all four wives reel to respond.

  • Other illnesses of dear friends, a stroke, a neck surgery with a very difficult recovery, a broken hip, a cancer diagnosis. A few more deaths. The awareness of our finiteness in this place we consider home.

  • Our daughter and her family visiting (including both grandsons!) chilling at the breakfast bar, swimming in the pool, walking the neighborhood. Relaxed and good.

  • The birth of our next grandson in faraway Denver and many Facetime sessions.

  • A trip to Atlanta to celebrate my sweet friend’s wedding.

  • A bout with bronchitis requiring too much “down” time and cancellations of many events.

  • Doctor appointments for my brother, along with three separate calls for a transplant that didn’t work out.

  • Prepping for God Hears Her and Discover the Word and writing Our Daily Bread devos and recording remotely, gaining deeper and wider understanding of the story of Scripture.

  • Outlining two more books.

  • Lunches, walks, dinners with friends.

These highlights make the months sound so productive, don’t they? But when I experienced them in real time, the days seemed to snail-pace forward with seemingly little to show for my efforts. Life can drag when we look at it from a daily perspective. But when we replay the days in a highlight reel, summarizing apparently small accomplishments, our perspective shifts. We can sit back and consider moment after moment as together they create a cumulative experience.

Perhaps this highlight reel version of journaling is something like the life slideshows played at rehearsal dinners, milestone birthdays or even for memorial services or funerals. In the minute-to-minute and day-to-day of life, our view is more of the micro where we dissect experiences. In the macro highlight version, we see a larger slice of God’s workings and gain an appreciation for the overarching story.

I’m wondering now if I could really appreciate the layered lessons without this time-chunked reflection. It’s in the highlight reel that I see it all. The best, the just fine and the not so great. All belonging.

Elisa Morgan is the author of You Are Not Alone. She is the cohost of the podcast, God Hears Her. She is also the cohost of Discover the Word and contributor to Our Daily Bread. Her other books include Christmas Changes Everything, When We Pray Like Jesus, The Beauty of Broken, and Hello, Beauty Full. Connect with Elisa @elisa_morgan on Twitter, and @elisamorganauthor on Facebook and Instagram.


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